March 15 to 18
SXSW is a great time for the average music fan, whether it's an afternoon BBQ, an in-store performance, or an evening showcase. I planted myself at the Kindercore Records showcase, where amidst the buzz of the hipsters, I Am The World Trade Center kicked things off. Samples and electronic beats backed singer Amy Dykes's soft, gentle voice. They were a little rough around the edges, but this was their first show, after all. Next up was Etienne Charry, from France. His charm and enthusiasm immediately won over the crowd. He literally bounced through a set of quick pop songs alongside his elaborate puppet show. Kincaid followed with a rather disappointing and dull set of boy-pop songs. Dressy Bessy strummed though a selection of sugary tunes before Essex Green delivered a standout performance of their retro pop gems.
Athens, GA's Japancakes finished off the show with a dreamy, drone-y pop symphony.
The second day I caught an afternoon in-store performance by Robert Schneider (Apples in Stereo) who seemed a little disoriented, but still managed to offer some great acoustic renditions of songs from their two latest albums. Later that evening, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci served up an energetic set of pop ballads and skewed rock songs. Across town, the UK group the Alchemysts tore through a pretty standard rock show until about halfway into their set, they were joined by Simeon of Silver Apples who unleashed an electronic barrage of sounds and delivered a great sonic assault.
The night ended with a fantastic showcase from Elephant 6 pop maestros Apples in Stereo. The band glided through new songs like they were old favourites while the familiar tunes sounded as great as hearing them for the first time.
Friday afternoon I made a stop at the quintessential SXSW BBQ, organised by the alt-country label Bloodshot Records. Calexico captivated the crowd with their lonesome ballads while the bluesy, foot-stompin songs of Devil in the Woodpile shook things up again. Back downtown to yet another BBQ, Beulah whipped through an outstanding half hour of unabashed pop bliss. Saltine, featuring former Posies member Ken Stringfellow, followed. Their great pop melodies pick up where the Posies left off and continue to show what an under-appreciated songwriter Stringfellow is. Later that evening, Gomez thoroughly bored me with the bland alternative/dance/rock they churned out.
The final day I was treated to an afternoon performance by Boston's jangly pop crusaders Papas Fritas who left me humming their catchy songs the rest of the day.
The night began with an entertaining show by the electronic punk mayhem of the Causey Way. Decked out in their white uniforms on a stage decorated with candles, flowers, and portraits of their leader Causey, they worked to "convert" their audience. On the far end of the city, the Faint served up a full-on electronic/industrial rave. Omaha, NB's Bright Eyes followed with an intense, emotional set led by singer Conor Oberst who writhed uncomfortably as he spat out his painful lyrics.